Interview with Simon Haynes

Published 2018-06-30.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Back in 1999 I submitted a manuscript to several publishers, one after another, and I couldn't believe how long it was taking to hear back. (I'm writing this in 2018, and one of those publishers still hasn't responded!)
So, in 2000 I thought "stuff this, I'm not wasting my life waiting around." I wrote a piece of software called yBook, which displayed electronic books on-screen with properly formatted pages that turned when you clicked them. After yBook was in general use, I released my first novel in ebook format.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Apart from a short experiment where one of my series was exclusive to a particular retailer, I've always gone wide with my books. As a teenager I remember the frustration when some new game was only released for a particular computer, or console, and I believe keen readers feel the same when they can't read their favourite authors on a given device.
Authors shouldn't stick their work behind artificial walls.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
"Having written".
Seriously, though, releasing a new novel into the wild after months of hard work out of the spotlight is an awesome feeling. In the past I worried that THIS book would be the one where people finally realised I was a useless author, and they'd leave a bunch of one star reviews.
However, after 18 novels it still hasn't happened, and I've slowly come to realise I might actually be a decent writer.
What do your fans mean to you?
Tons! There's this one guy in particular who wrote to me maybe every 8 months between 2014 and 2017, when I took a lengthy break from writing. He wasn't demanding, he just asked if I was writing anything.
Now I'm writing novels faster than he can read them ... I take my revenge however I can get it ;-)
What are you working on next?
A Portion of Dragon and Chips. It's Game of Thrones crossed with Discworld, although since I've only read one Discworld novel, the first person who insists I'm writing a Terry Pratchett knock-off will be added to book two as a character and promptly jailed. Or eaten by a giant turtle.

(I've had this with the Hal Spacejock series. Even though I wrote the first four novels before reading Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, or watching a single episode of the Red Dwarf TV show, people still leave reviews claiming it's copying something or other. Yes, it has a smart robot, a dodgy space pilot and a snarky computer, but they're all based on people I know!)
Who are your favorite authors?
A voracious, life-long reader, my influences include Arthur C. Clarke, William F. Temple, C.S. Forester, C.S. Lewis, W.E. Johns, George G. Gilman, James A. Michener, Andrew M. Greeley, J.E. MacDonell, P.G. Wodehouse and J.R.R. Tolkien.

I also enjoy works by authors without initials, such as Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, James Herriot, Victor Canning, Tom Holt, Desmond Bagley, Elisabeth Beresford, Michael Bond, Anthony Buckeridge, Richmal Crompton, James Clavell, Roald Dahl, Len Deighton, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lynn Flewelling, Dick Francis, Adam Hall, Alexander Kent/Douglas Reeman, Robert Ludlum, Alistair MacLean, Dudley Pope, Arthur Ransome, Malcolm Saville, Tom Sharpe, Showell Styles and many more.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Who says I get out of bed?
Okay, truth time: I go to bed at 4am and get up around noon. I work best in the hours between 9pm and 3am, when there's no chance of phone calls, knocks on the door, postal deliveries or other interruptions.
I work with my brain. If I'm not writing novels I'm writing computer software, and once I'm in full flight I have a brain packed with complex information which has to find its way into the computer. One interruption can cost me an hour or more, and I've long since learned not to bother until I can work undisturbed.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Computer programming, PC gaming, woodwork and carpentry, renovating houses, bike riding for exercise, board gaming with friends, reading, drawing (mostly digital art). Loads of other stuff too.
I also design my own book covers, and I'm on top of promos and ads and newsletter swaps and so on.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Until a year ago I had about 3000 paperbacks in my house, packed into shelves I built in the hallways and bedrooms. One day I decided to get rid of them all, apart from a small collection of signed copies and books which held memories for one reason or another.
As a kid I hoarded books because I was always terrified of having nothing to read. Now, books are one or two mouseclicks away, 24/7.
As for discovery, I avoid the genres I write in. In fact, I mostly read non-fiction, and these are paperbacks given to me by others!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was set in WW2, and a squadron of spitfires took off from an airfield and downed a number of enemy planes before returning and landing successfully.

I was six years old at the time. I can still remember showing it to my mum like it was yesterday.
What is your writing process?
I wrote a book detailing it!
Basically, I come up with a rough plot idea, write a couple of chapters, then come up with a comprehensive plot outline before sitting down and writing the whole novel.
Ironically, the novel I'm working on now is the first since I released How to Write a Novel, and I'm ignoring all of my own advice.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was a big fan of the Famous Five, and the Borrowers. I don't remember any of the picture books kids are usually given to read, but once I got into novels they really began to have an effect.
How do you approach cover design?
If it's a series book, I'm limited to imitating the style of the previous titles. With a new series I try to come up with a design that will unify all the books in the series.
For years I avoided the tired old trope of 'spaceships on the cover' for my science fiction novels, instead showing the characters, but if you want to sell you just have to conform to reader expectations.
But how do you convey humour with a spaceship on the cover? And how do you say - yes, it's funny, and satirical, but there's also a real plot, and danger, and hard science, and social commentary?
So, after all these years I've stopped trying to sell the funny, and instead I'm selling the scifi. Let readers discover the humour for themselves.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
High Citadel by Desmond Bagley - overwhelming odds, ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.
God Game by Andrew M. Greeley - early days of PC gaming, fantasy world crossover, incredible characters.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome - Adults letting kids get on with things, unsupervised.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov - my first taste of Science Fiction.
Martin Magnus, Planet Rover by William F. Temple - 1950's science fiction, now available in ebook after I helped the author's daughter re-release the titles.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly non-fiction.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle 2 which is about to undergo a battery transplant. Works fine, I just wish the case wasn't stark white because it detracts from the reading experience. (Makes the page seem dull and grey.)
I really want a newer Kindle, but it can wait. If you want to be a full time author you learn not to spend any money, ever.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Newsletter swaps, Facebook and Bookbub CPC ads, paid promotions with ENT, Robin Reads, Bookcave and similar.
Describe your desk
Fairly small, with three 1920x1200 24" monitors facing me in an arc. Web pages and netflix/VLC on the left, WIP in the centre (programming or writing), Steam chat and temporary windows on the right.

I also run SalesScanner, which is a free piece of software I wrote to analyse sales figures from Smashwords, KDP, Createspace and Google Play. When I download a report from any of those sites, it scans the contents and updates my daily/weekly figures in realtime. It's nice to know what I've sold, and where.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in England in the late sixties, moved to Spain in the mid seventies and moved again, to Australia, in the mid-eighties. All these changes led to a whirlwind of schools and new friends of many nationalities, which I believe gave me a very broad view of the world.
As for influences, I think experiencing so many different environments has enriched my writing.
When did you first start writing?
I started on my first novel at age 26, but didn't finish it until five years later. Before that, I didn't believe I had anything to say to the vast majority of book buyers and readers, since they'd be older, wiser and more experienced than me.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Oh boy. On the 1st of April 2018, I posted a mock-up book cover for a 'new novel' called 'A Game of Clunks'. In it, the robot from my main SF series ends up in a Game-of-Thrones environment. It had a dig on the cover about scifi writers who discovered fantasy paid better, and the tagline was 'A pair of nuts on the throne'.
Well, my facebook and twitter folllowers really took to it, and by the end of the day I was promising to write it. I 'only' had three other novels and a non-fiction title to write first, but since they're all done and published I really am writing the fantasy knock-off. (Now called 'A Portion of Dragon and Chips' - robots, silicon, chips ... get it?)
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Books by This Author

How to Write a Novel
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 16,200. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Education & Study Guides » Literacy
Maybe you want to write a novel which has been on your mind for years. You don't care how long it takes, you just want to see it through to the end. Or maybe you see yourself as a career novelist - there's a real challenge - and you want to write books quickly and efficiently. I've done both, and I cover both approaches in How to Write a Novel.
Yard Fail
Price: Free! Words: 3,410. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
When Ralph Swindon tinkers in his workshop, the whole world holds its breath ... A 2700-word short story. Trivia: Features the characters from Sleight of Hand.
Thonn!
Price: Free! Words: 2,860. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
(3.00 from 1 review)
Synopsis: Magick is banned in Thonn's world, outlawed after greedy and power-hungry wizards almost destroyed the entire planet. So imagine his surprise when he spies Eddie de Elder performing Magick spells! A 2500 word Fantasy/Comedy story
Updown
Price: Free! Words: 1,940. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Social services have come to take 10-year old Daniel away from his home and family, but his best friend Danny has other ideas ... A 1600 word Science Fiction story
Billy's Book
Price: Free! Words: 5,270. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Billy Crump is the local stable boy. Fed up with mucking out horses, he sneaks into the wizard's lab, concocts a potion using all the rare and expensive ingredients, and somehow ends up with a talking book. His first thought? Sell the book ... and say goodbye to horse muck forever! A 5000 word fantasy/comedy story
Off Course
Price: Free! Words: 2,050. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Sports, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
When you're on for a birdie, watch for aliens in the rough. A 1500 word SF/comedy/golf story
Catch of the Day
Price: Free! Words: 4,310. Language: English. Published: November 14, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Ken and Steve reluctantly give up their lawnmowing duties for a weekend of fishing, booze and male bonding. Unfortunately the fish aren't biting, supplies are running low and worst of all ... the beer just ran out. Then, without warning, an alien colony ship arrives in orbit, and that's when Ken's problems REALLY start. A 4000 word short story by the author of the Hal Spacejock series.
A Piece of the Action
Price: Free! Words: 9,170. Language: English. Published: March 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
(4.00 from 1 review)
Flat broke and stranded in a South American country, Ralph Gardiner is nursing a beer and contemplating the wreckage of his life. No money, no prospects, and worst of all ... the beer is warm. When a local businessman approaches him with a curious job offer, Ralph decides he has very little to lose ... 8000 Word Short Story.
Loss Leader
Price: Free! Words: 9,190. Language: English. Published: March 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » General
(4.33 from 3 reviews)
After many delays and last-minute setbacks, the first colony ship leaves planet Earth for a distant star. Join the crew as they discover all is not as it seems... Originally published in Andromeda Spaceways #3